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05 June 2017

Media release

Report reveals Australian soft drinks have higher levels of glucose that could be linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease

Australian soft drinks
Pia Varsamis and Bronwyn Kingwell

A report published in the Medical Journal of Australia calls for examination of the health effects of Australian soft drink formulations following global analysis that revealed Australian soft drinks have higher levels of glucose that could be linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The analysis by researchers at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute found that in four popular soft drinks, total glucose concentration (predominantly from sucrose) was 22 per cent higher in Australian compared to US formulations.

The author of the report and Head of Metabolic and Vascular Physiology at the Baker Institute, Professor Bronwyn Kingwell says Australian soft drinks are chiefly sweetened through sugar cane derived sucrose. In contrast, formulations marketed under the same trade name in other regions predominantly use high-fructose corn syrup (such as the US) and sugar beet (Europe).

Given that glucose, but not fructose rapidly elevates plasma glucose and insulin, regular consumption of Australian soft drinks has potential health implications regarding type 2 diabetes and its complications.

She says the findings are particularly relevant for Australians who are high consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). A recent Australian Health Survey estimates that 39 per cent of all men and 29 per cent of women are regular consumers of SSBs, which represent the largest source of sugars in the Australian diet.

Professor Kingwell says the potential adverse effects of fructose overconsumption are well known, particularly with regards to potential build-up of fat in the liver and links with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but she says little is known about the health effects of Australian soft drink consumption containing high glucose concentrations.

Given the already high consumption of SSBs in Australia and high rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, these findings are of significant concern and warrant further investigation as soon as possible.

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